Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 (S. 305).
Chairman Goodlatte: On March 29, 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. Tragically, when they returned to the United States, these veterans, like many who returned earlier in the war, were greeted with a cold, and at times hostile, reception.
Looking back more than fifty years at his experience during the Vietnam War and his return home, Billie Two Feathers, who served with the U.S. Army, wrote: “My return to the states was typical of several people I’ve talked to. Family and friends would say, ‘Been a while.’, and leave it at that. Others would call me names that I won’t repeat.” Kenneth Bisbee, who also served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, wrote: “When I got back to my hometown no one seemed to notice that I had been away, nor did they care.”
These accounts and others, some of which recall worse treatment, record the national sentiment on a personal level. Their stories remind us that most returning veterans were not even acknowledged for their sacrifice, and that many suffered because of it. While the nation has worked to correct this terrible mistake over the last few decades, there is more Congress can do to honor our Vietnam veterans while we still have an opportunity.
Today, the Committee has a chance to recognize, honor, and thank the service members of the Vietnam War and their sacrifice by supporting S. 305, the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. This bill would amend Section 6(d) of title 4, United States Code, to encourage the display of the U.S. flag on National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which is honored each year on March 29. Introduced by Senator Toomey, S. 305 passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent last month.
Any recognition these veterans receive now is an insufficient substitute for the recognition they should have received when they first arrived back in the United States. And while nothing can remove the pain surrounding the hollow reception these veterans received, one can hope that their sacrifice, which continued well after the war, will help ensure that this nation never again abandons a generation of veterans. I urge all Members of this Committee to support S. 305.